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Cathie carries out foundation design for subsea datacenter

Posted on 17 February 2021

Cathie carries out foundation design for subsea datacenter

Global offshore geoscience and geotechnical engineering consultancy, Cathie, has carried out a foundation design feasibility study for an offshore, subsea datacenter.

Cathie’s undisclosed client, who are developing a system for the storage of datacenters offshore and underwater, engaged them to undertake a foundation design study for subsea sites with soft soils to secure the structure onto the seabed.

Site specific geotechnical data was not available and so their client relied upon Cathie’s global experience of every conceivable form of subsea geotechnical and geological conditions to define an appropriate case for the design. Optimal designs were configured for both skirted mudmat and suction caisson foundation types, according to the load requirements of the datacentre, which need a very high horizontal resistance with the minimum possible self-weight of the structure. All this, whilst ensuring optimised submerged self-weight to reliably penetrate the foundation into the seabed.

Cathie was engaged in this project following successful completion of ‘pin foundation’ designs for tidal devices on rocky seabed where horizontal capacity needed to be optimised with minimum self-weight.

Emilio Nicolini, Technical Director, Cathie, commented, “Innovation is at the heart of Cathie so we were delighted to be able to support our client with this exercise on such an unconventional project. Drawing on our geotechnical expertise, we were able to evaluate the suitability of the different foundation types, taking into account the soil structure combined with the potential tidal flow and met ocean load and provide a recommendation for our client to take forward.”

Securely locating datacenters offshore, within close proximity to offshore wind farms or tidal arrays offers many benefits. The consistently cool subsurface sea temperatures offers an ideal method of keeping the vast amounts of electrical equipment cool, while powering them with reliable, renewable energy. Microsoft recently announced recovery of their Orkney subsea datacenter which made use of these benefits.